Sympathy for Disgust – Becky Furey

Becky Furey

Disgust is a special word in my line of work. As special as “special.” Disgust lies on a chaise longue in opposition to my intentions. I am a cook. It’s a really dirty job with numerous indelibly unsavory aspects. I will frighten and bore you with tales of these aspects another time. Or maybe it’s better you don’t know. Just believe that it’s really difficult to gross me out. Lies, violence, oppression, and waste gross me out. Not food, particularly. The gastronomical horror my mind accommodates makes me kind of, well, prejudiced toward picky eaters. I love the sign at Daddy D’z: “This isn’t Burger King….” I love “no substitutions” on a menu. However, I’d like to argue in favor of your right to be disgusted anyway by what’s on your plate.

Edible, meanwhile, is a fascinatingly underwhelming adjective for food. Merely edible. Not a great way to describe lunch. Not quite a pleasure to consume but not inedible, as are almost all chaise longues. To experience disgust and/or delight is about as luxurious as experiencing emotion in general. Or as luxurious as being alive. Surely a subjective experience, taste is more basic than it is luxurious. To be discerning is to stay alive. If your body genuinely objects, abide, man. Eating from a plate while seated in a controlled climate and served by your fellow man, however, is an absolute luxury. I forgive you (and myself) for being so privileged sometimes.

It’s interesting to consider how even simple, edible ingredients can render the technically edible disgusting. Swap salt for sugar. Trade baking soda for baking powder. See if any human will eat that shit. Oh, the power of a single, ruinous ingredient! I like to play this game. My current chef’s ace-in-the-hole is lots of tiny prawn. Mine are Strawberry Quik and finely chopped, evenly dispersed bubblegum. Taste is contextual, and with good reason. I do enjoy fresh herbs. On top of stuffed peppers? Lovely. On top of cake? Unexpected but potentially delicious. On top of food wrapped in aluminum foil? Comedy gold.

The strangeness of the strangest single dish I’ve served is entirely contextual. It was a boat of regular ol’ bean dip at 10 in the morning. But no chips. No other food. “Would she like a spoon?” I asked, still not placing judgement. “No.” Mysterious. “Does she have silverware?” I inquired. “No.” Okay. “Straw?” This went on. I don’t know why it bothered me so much. The sadness of the saddest dish I’ve prepared is contextual but understood to me. It’s always quail. Around 20 fit in a hotel pan. An entire village of little birds. There’s not even that much meat on these li’l dudes. Being involved at all makes me feel like a giant monster. Like Godzilla, toasting an entire apartment building full of people.

The only order I refused to cook was an over-medium egg white omelet. Not impossible. But pretty damn gross with cheap eggs. Don’t trust anybody’s cheap raw eggs, please. These examples are just a few from the last 15 years. Think about what you’re eating. If you don’t exercise your right to be disgusted or delighted sometimes, I will do it for you. It gives what I do meaning.


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